The Camera Became My Passport Home. By Ben van Drogenbroek

Stalag Luft 3, The Great Escape, The Forced March and the Liberation at Moosburg – some background information

“The Camera Became My Passport Home”

Stalag Luft 3, The Great Escape, The Forced March and the Liberation at Moosburg
The memoirs of Charles Boyd Woehrle
8th Air Force – 351st Heavy Bomb Group – 509th Squadron
A time document in text and pictures about an American prisoner of war
A three volume hardcover coffee-table book set of 526 pages and more than 500 illustrations (photographs, drawings and maps)
  • Printed in full-colour on glossy paper
  • Each set numbered and signed by the author
  • Each set provided with an original signature of Charles Boyd Woehrle
  • Certificate with set number included
  • Price (inclusive post and packaging): £ 160 (indeed not cheap, but worth every penny!)
Orders taken by the author directly: Ben van Drogenbroek
Stadhouderslaan 32
3417 TW Montfoort
The Netherlands

DrogenbroekBook_2 DrogenbroekBook_3 DrogenbroekBook_4

My interest in Stalag Luft 3 started more than 30 years ago. The first suggestion to write a coffee-table book was given in 2004. The actual writing started in 2007 and the book was finished in February 2013, so it took about six years in my free time, next to my full-time job.  This was possible because I am single, not married (never was) and no children. However, the biggest obstacle was that I wanted to write the book in English, which is not my native language.

When interviewing many ex-prisoners-of-war-of Stalag-Luft-3, I had to accept that mistaken interpretations and gaps in memories couldn’t be ruled out after more than 60 years after the events. Much information has been lost in the mists of time. However, some memories were so vivid and sharp that no amount of time can erode them.

The book is published by the Dutch “Life Behind The Wire 1940-1945” Association of which I am one of the three members. Each member has his own specialty in this certain field of this part of history. There were several reasons to publish the book by our Association and not taking the trouble to find a publisher. This was possible because I am working in the printing trade and could do the complete typesetting and design. I really wanted the book to be designed as a “coffee-table” book, reproducing photographs and illustrations on a size which would do them justice; reveiling as much details as possible, so not the much-too-often seen books with photographs reproduced on the size of a postage stamp crammed in on a few pages.

Another reason for self publishing was that our Association wants to write about the real history of the Second World war. A commercial publisher often demands changes in the story or to delete photographs and illustrations to make it more attractive from a commercial point of view. Because the events took place 60 odd years ago, while society had seen many hanges, it was also necessary to piece out the story of Stalag Luft 3 with general information of that period, providing the reader with a better view about the time in which the experiences of the prisoners of war took place.  Besides, to prevent that the story only could be understood when reading through all the plain text, the captions had to be written in such a way that the book is understandable for someone only targeting the pictures.

Most of the photographs and drawings are authentic, but it was also necessary to produce quite a lot of additional drawings and maps myself. Although this book is intended as a historical record, cartoons drawn by the prisoners have also been included, partly to brighten the presentation, but mainly because such a drawing can often give a very effective impression of a particular circumstance.

The main character in the book is Charles Woehrle, a bombardier of a B-17 “Flying Fortress” belonging to the 8th Air Force – 351st Heavy Bomb Group – 509th Squadron. In the first chapters he represents the way of airmen becoming prisoners of war. In the chapters following he forms the red line in the book. Popping in and out of the story he connects the individual chapters. During his time as a prisoner, Charles always had been aware to document valuable information. His sharp mind, ears and eyes caughteverything that could be of historical value.

I hope that I am allowed to say that the book is a tribute to the prisoners of war of Stalag Luft 3.

Yours Sincerely,
Ben van Drogenbroek
Stadhouderslaan 32
3417 TW Montfoort
The Netherlands